The Smell of Bullshit, part 43: more more data protection issues

As already discussed here, here and here, many people have concerns about Lush’s attitude to their legal obligations relating to data protection. Recently I had an email from a Lush customer (as always, all emails relating to this blog should go to southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk). The customer had signed up to receive emails from Lush retail, but suddenly started receiving emails from a Lush/Vivienne Westwood “climate revolution” campaign. (Perhaps they could start their climate revolution by closing the damn doors).

The first email was from “Climate Revolution” and it said

…A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We would like to thank you for signing up to Climate Revolution and supporting us in 2013 and we hope you continue to support us to fight for a healthy planet; financially, environmentally and socially.

It has taken us a year but we have launched our website and you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you,
Vivienne Westwood & Climate Revolution.

and at the bottom it says

You are receiving this email because you opted to sign up to Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution.

The customer is adamant she did not opt to sign up to the Climate Revolution campaign. She contacted Lush, saying


I have received the below email to an address that I set up specifically for use on your website. I did not opt in to email from the Climate Revolution at any time.

Your website’s privacy policy says

We may share your information on a confidential basis with our third party providers and group companies. However, don’t worry, your data is not publicly available and we will never pass it on to anyone who will plague you with non-Lush marketing stuff. We treat your data as strictly confidential!

Can you please explain why and how Vivienne Westwood Ltd have been given my email address?


Lush responded with


Thank you for getting in touch, please do excuse the delay in our reply. I’m so sorry to learn of your concerns regarding a recent Climate Revolution Newsletter. Please do accept our apologies.

During our joint venture between Climate Revolution and Vivnene Westwood we created to provide our customers with further information about the current campaign. We sent out a newsletter to our customers informing them about Climate Revolution and the new website.

I would like to reassure you that our customers privacy is of the up most importance to us and we would never share your personal information to any third parties. If you no longer wish to receive any further information from the Climate Revolution Campaign you can click on the unsubcribe button at the end of the Newsletter, which will remove you from the mailing list.

I do hope this has been of help and please do accept our sincere apologies for inconvenience this has caused you. If you were to have any further questions or concerns please do let us know.

Kind regards,

Customer Care
Lush Retail Ltd
Tel: 01202 641006

But this customer did not opt in to receive Climate Revolution information – Lush opted her into that without asking, even though they say they do not pass details onto agencies who would use them to send out marketing emails. Note that the person responding thinks “utmost” is “up most.” Oh, and at the bottom of the email from customer care, it says

To resolve this, we need to tell the customer:

·         What Climate Revolution is and apologise for any confusion caused.

·         Assure the customer that we have not shared any data with anyone.

·         Provide them with simple instructions on how to unsubscribe (click the link in the email provided).

Thanks all,

which looks to me as if the customer care people have forwarded the customer’s email on for advice about how to deal with it, and haven’t fully deleted the advice they got before replying. Note that in while discussing how to resolve it, they don’t say “we should stop sending out emails to people who didn’t opt in to them.”

Lush took the email addresses from people who used the retail website, passed them to the Climate Revolution campaign, and then suggested that it was the customers’ responsibility to unsubscribe if they don’t want to receive emails they never opted into. I trust the Information Commissioner will be following this up.


The Smell of Bullshit, part 42: baby, it’s cold outside, but we’re heating up the whole world

In the very first of the series of Bullshit posts, I mentioned how Lush shops were keeping their doors open in the coldest of weathers, regardless of how cold that made the shops, and regardless of how much energy that wasted.

Close the Door are an environmental pressure group who are concerned that many high street retailers are pouring out heat through their open shop doors. According to a Sunday Times report on 8th December this year, Lush and the Body Shop are among the worst offenders, along with Next, Cath Kidston, and the Arcadia group shops. There’s no point linking to the Sunday Times article as I don’t have a Times account and can’t see the whole thing. However, this article in The Ecologist has quite a bit to say about it, and about Lush’s hypocrisy in particular.

Retailers are well aware of the marketing value of promoting sustainability and making grand corporate social responsibility claims. However, we should be alert to ‘green wash’.

In freezing January earlier this year the Lush chain, so loud about its ethics, had posters beside some of its wide open doors, belting heat out and proclaiming “What’s Good for the Climate is Good for the Economy”.

This flagrantly played on customers’ concerns, apparently on the assumption they wouldn’t notice the contradiction. It might as well have been a ‘Save Water’ poster in a drought with a hose left running beside it.

An often repeated response is “but we do xyz to save energy instead of closing the door”. When you can do something as simple as closing the door to make a major difference, this excuse does not cut the mustard.

NPower are talking about it. RTCC are talking about it. Close the Door have a facebook page and a twitter account, and they have helpful tips for consumers who want retailers to close their doors in winter.

If this is something that concerns you, contact the shop with open doors and tell them that you won’t be shopping there unless they shut that door.


Stella Newman’s books

I read a lot, and I read a variety of genres. Some of my favourite female authors are Kate Atkinson, Sophie Hannah, Audrey Niffenegger, Marian Keyes, Joan Aiken, JK Rowling.

I don’t like the term “chick lit” but it’s an easy shorthand for a certain type of light, popular, comedic, romantic aimed-at-women fiction. Much “chick-lit” is formulaic and predictable – heroine has job troubles and boyfriend troubles, mishaps occur, low point in her life is reached, things get better and she has a happy ending with either the old boyfriend, or a new, better one. It’s lighweight and frothy and fun and doesn’t need too much concentration.The relationship is generally the most important part of the plot – the heroine’s happiness depends on whether or not she gets the man of her dreams at the end of the book. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you like, and sometimes I like it. If that’s the sort of reading I want to do, I look to Sophie Kinsella or Jenny Colgan (I don’t like Celia Aherne and I really don’t like Kathy Lette).

Sometimes, though, I get a bit sick of the books where the heroine’s relationship status is the be-all and end-all, the books which convey the message that if you’re not in a relationship, your life is incomplete and you can’t ever be truly happy. I read a book called Not Married Not Bothered. The heroine spent the whole book banging on about how happy and fulfilled and complete her life was, despite her spinster status, but surprise surprise, the book finishes with her getting married, which she really wanted all along. *sigh*

So, Stella Newman. I was browsing my local library, looking for something reasonably lightweight, and found Pear Shaped. Read it, liked it, bought her other novel, Left Overs. What I really liked about them is that the plot is built around the heroines’ work lives. Romantic relationships are in there, as important parts of women’s lives, (more so in Pear Shaped than in Left Overs) but they’re not the be-all and end-all. The women aren’t anti-men or anti-relationship, but neither are they willing to sacrifice their self-respect or principles in order to stay in a relationship that isn’t right. They put time and effort into their careers and seem to get at least as much satisfaction and self-worth from their work as from their relationships, and the happy endings are down to the heroines’ efforts and talents and their lives as a whole, rather than just whether or not they have a boyfriend.

If you’re looking for some enjoyable but not too ponderous reading over the festive period, and if you like “chick-lit” but you get fed up of the predictability of the plots, try Stella Newman. I think you might like it.

(Gluten free) Rich Chocolate Cake

This is a fantastic recipe for chocolate cake made with ground almonds instead of flour, so great for people who don’t eat gluten, but no good for people with nut allergies. It comes out a bit dense, but very rich (insert Boris Johnson joke here).

250g/9oz plain chocolate

175g/6oz butter or margarine (seriously? in a cake this good? use butter!)

125g/4oz caster sugar

200g/7oz ground almonds

4 eggs, separated

5 tbsp apricot conserve


Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line base of 22cm/8.5″ cake tin and brush with melted butter.

Place 175g/6oz chocolate in a bowl, over pan of simmering water, and stir until melted Remove from heat.

Cream 125g/4oz butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir n ground almonds, egg yolks and melted chocolate. Beat together.

Whisk egg whites until stiff and fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into tin and bake for 50-55 mins until firm to touch.

Leave for a few minutes to cool, then turn onto wire rack and leave to cool. Coat top of cake with apricot conserve.

Cut remaining butter and chocolate into small pieces, and put into bowl over pan of simmering water. When melted, stir well and spread over top of cake.


Feminist bloggers love public services – unless it’s social workers, of course

This post contains references to behaviour sometimes exhibited in times of acute severe mental illlness, and enforced Caesarean sections, which most people might find distressing and some people might find triggering.

For months now, years now, feminist bloggers have talked about how important public services are, how valuable public sector workers are, how much they respect the workers who deliver the service, how much they value the services they provide, how much they recognise that public services are vitally important to women, and how much they detest and condemn government attacks on public services. That all goes out of the window though, the minute there’s a chance to have a go at social workers. No matter how much they purport to support public services, they can’t wait to condemn social workers, call for their heads on spikes, criticise their every move, pull apart their every decision, and portray them as callous, wicked, incompetent evil-doers, no matter how half-arsed the evidence. People who know that press reports aren’t always accurate or truthful, people who know that social workers are unable to report their side of a story because of confidentiality, people who know that perceptions of situations differ and aren’t always accurate, people, in short, who should know better, are lining up to say how the behaviour of the social worker is disgusting and there can’t possibly be any justification for what’s happened.

The Telegraph reported that a pregnant Italian woman came to Britain last July to attend a training course. She then suffered a panic attack and called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital that she soon realized was a psychiatric facility (the woman’s family believes that her panic attack was caused by her failure to take medication for her bipolar condition). The woman has told her lawyers that when she expressed a desire to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Essex County Council social workers obtained a High Court order in August for the woman’s birth to “to be enforced by way of caesarean section.” The woman claims that in the 5 weeks between being sectioned and the enforced C-section, she was given no information about the legal proceedings relating to her pregnancy.

And then the internet kicked off.

I read “social workers can now remove children on a whim if the mother has a mental illness.” Ha bloody ha. A local authority not far from here appointed a new chief social work officer a few years ago. The first thing one of the social work managers did was take a huge pile of files to the CSWO’s office and say “here are all the children we have assessed as needing to be removed from their homes to a place of safety because they are in immediate danger, who we can’t remove because we have nowhere else for them to go.” Do you really think social workers who don’t have anywhere to put children who are definitely at risk are going to go round snatching children just because the mother has a mental health problem? How would they even know the mother has a mental illness? They don’t have time (or permission) to read the medical notes of every woman in the area looking for mothers with mental illness. Children are referred to social workers because there are concerns for them. Social workers don’t go out looking for business.

I’ve read “social workers are paid for every child they remove.” Bollocks. That’s not just a misunderstanding, it’s an outright lie.

I’ve read that social workers will snatch the children of every sex worker, because social workers are all devotees of radfem theory, which is so ridiculous it’s actually laughable. Unless my colleagues wait until I’ve gone out for the day before they start discussing radfem theory.

I’ve read that this is “socialized medicine at its best,” to which I can only say “fuck off, teabagger.”

I’ve read that the social workers got the court order for the C-section to avoid having to pay for several weeks of care for the woman in question, which again is nonsense. A person who is so ill that they have been detained in hospital does not need social care, they need hospital care, which is why they have been detained in hospital. A person in hospital is not coming out of social work’s budget, for want of a better way of putting it. I cannot imagine any social worker trying to go to court to get an order for a C-section because it would save the NHS money. It just wouldn’t happen. And if it did, I don’t believe there’s a judge in the country who would make that order. Contrary to popular internet belief, judges and sheriffs take this kind of thing seriously, and they will not deprive someone of their liberty unless they have been convinced that it is absolutely necessary.

Very few people bothered to make the point that the press reports might not be accurate, and certainly were not the whole story. A few people tried to point out that the source of the story was Christopher Brooker, who has form for making up shit about social workers, but they were shouted down in the general outrage. Christopher Brooker distorts facts and tells outright lies about social workers and social work departments. This post has quite a lot of detail about it. This High Court judgement, paragraph 185, criticises Mr Brooker for reporting that social workers stole a child from its parents on the flimsiest evidence of “faint bruising.” The child had fractures of its left ulna, right femur, right tibia, left fibula, and two in the left tibia. That’s one broken arm, two fractures in the right leg and three fractures in the left leg, and experts agreed none of them could have been accidental injuries.

Mr Brooker is not a reliable source and I cannot understand why so many people were willing to believe his take on events when it’s obvious he is not a reliable reporter of matters relating to child protection. And I cannot understand why so many people were willing to accept that the Telegraph report was a full and accurate picture of the facts, when they know fine well that it was only half a story.

Social workers are generally forbidden from speaking to the press, and they can never give full details of their cases or the reasoning behind the decisions that they make, because of strict rules about confidentiality. This means that any person or family can go to the press and say “the social workers stole my children/abucted my granny/refused me a new house” and give a completely one-sided view of events, calling the social workers incompetent and dishonest, and the social workers can’t give their version of the facts. One of my colleagues was involved in a very distressing situation a few years ago when she had to get a court order to remove an elderly person from their family’s care in their own home. The family could easily have gone to the paper and made accusations of institutional incompetence and malice, and the social worker would not have been able to respond with the facts, which were that the family had neglected the elderly person to the point that they had a bone-deep pressure sore on their body and weren’t given so much as a paracetamol to relieve the pain, let alone appropriate wound care.

So, to the very sad and distressing case of the pregnant Italian woman who underwent an enforced C-section. The woman has bi-polar disorder, and her family believe she hadn’t been taking her medication. We don’t know if she was in the depressive phase or the mania phase of her illness. We don’t know how ill she was. We do know that she was so ill that she needed to be detained in hospital, and we know that social workers were able to convince a judge that an enforced C-section was the best option, and that the professionals who performed the section were also willing to go ahead.

So many people seem to think that despite knowing any of the facts, they know better than the many professionals, including a high court judge, and that there can be no possible justification for this course of action.

What if the woman was so severely depressed that she had become psychotic and believed the baby was a demon who was killing her and she was trying to hack it out of her body with implements or her own hands? What if she was determined to kill herself in order to kill the demon within her? It’s happened before. What if she believed that she and the baby were super-human, possibly divine, and she had to get the baby out of her by any means in order for it to begin its divine work? People with severe, acute, florid mental illness can hold extremely powerful, bizarre delusional beliefs, and very often feel compelled to act on them. Anti-psychotics and anti-depressants can take weeks before they begin to work, and they can be very harmful to foetuses. I can see any number of scenarios whereby health and social work professionals might come to the conclusion that the best thing for the woman and for her baby was to get the baby out of her as quickly and as safely as possible, and that other options would not be adequate or sufficient.

It’s not pleasant. It’s upsetting, it’s distressing, it’s something that nobody wants to happen. Nobody wants it to happen to them, nobody wants it to happen to other people. I understand that if you’ve never worked in the field, or never experienced that type of mental illness to that degree of severity, it might seem farfetched and unbelievable that someone could be so unwell that the best option for her care is to compel her to have a C-section. But it can happen. And instead of rushing to condemn it based on nothing but one interpretation of some of the facts, shouldn’t all those people who claim to respect and value public services and the workers who deliver them show a little bit of that respect by holding back on the condemnation and accepting that the people who knew the full facts made the decision they thought was best at the time?

Miscarriages of justice happen. Of course they do. Nobody gets it right all the time. Professionals try hard to get it right, and that’s why they don’t take decisions in isolation. They discuss things with their colleagues, with their managers, with their employer’s legal people, with the other agencies involved, and they agree plans of action together – and then they present their evidence to the court, and the court decides. It could be, that in this case, they all got it terribly terribly wrong. But we don’t know the full facts, we only know the report from Brooker, who is not a reliable source, and the bare minimum of information released by Essex County Council. So, instead of shouting about how appalling it is, why don’t the bloggers accept that they don’t know the full facts and stop indulging in such irresponsible, hateful criticism? Or even better, if they’re such experts, why don’t they go and train as social workers and show us all what a better job they’d make of it?

Because every time someone who doesn’t know the facts and doesn’t know the law starts shouting about how terrible social workers are, somebody somewhere sees it and believes it, and decides not to ask for help that they need.

Long swim today

My target for November was 10km, which is lower than my usual targets but I knew I wouldn’t manage as much this month because of various other commitments. Last night I was at 7950m for the month, so I had to do 2050m today to make the target. I could have just not hit the target, but I think I missed it last month too, so I decided to do the lot. (I only swam twice in the first two weeks November because of a bad reaction to my flu jag so I had a lot of distance to make up latterly). I did 2100m today, which is the biggest distance I’ve done for a while. It took me 57m50s, with an average speed of 1m22s per 50m. I’m quite pleased with that – it;s not fast, but I managed to maintain a steady pace all the way through, no slowing down over the last 500m at all. I am tired now though, and need to go to bed.